Depression and Suicide

This is something I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time, but something that I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write about. My hometown has lost too many people over this school year. Too many young people. Too many high school students. Too many friends. Too many brothers and sisters.

I want to make it clear that I am not here to talk about the specific incidents that have happened this year, because it’s not my business and I don’t fully know what happened and it’s not my story to tell.

Suicide is really hard to talk about. It’s taboo. It’s scary. It’s personal.

I have struggled with chronic depression for thirteen years. For as long as I can remember I was told that I’m a drama-queen and that I’m over-reacting or trying to get attention or making things up. And sometimes it was true, sometimes I just needed someone to acknowledge that I was still real and that I was hurting. But the problem with this was that I never got the help that I needed. I was told so many things: that my faith wasn’t strong enough, that I needed more prayer (I’ll admit that this has made me pretty bitter towards the church), that I needed exercise or a better diet. And all of these things contributed, but at the end of the day, an imbalance in your “happy-brain-chemicals” (as I like to call them) needs professional help.

There were days, even years, where I considered suicide to the point of knowing exactly how I wanted to do it. There were days where I had to steady my hands to keep myself from running straight into on-coming traffic.

It took me three years, new friends, seven doctor’s appointments, and a lot of tears to get where I am.

I tell you these things because I think it is so important that we acknowledge the real pain and emotions that all people experience. As a fairly healthy girl in a happy middle-class family, going to a top-notch school, with good friends, in a healthy and loving relationship I have never looked like the poster-child for depression. I don’t look like someone who needs help. We can’t write people off because we don’t see their struggles. We cannot dismiss people because they are “too young” or because they just “need attention”. This is never helpful. Never.

I don’t say this as someone that is cured, or even as someone that is “healing”. I say this as someone who is coping. Someone who is working every day to keep going.

I’m begging you to listen to the people in your life, to make them feel loved and cared about. And maybe you don’t understand why they’re acting the way they are, so ask. Don’t assume that you know exactly what’s going on. Don’t roll your eyes at someone who is expressing their pain for being “over dramatic”. And DO NOT, under any circumstances, tell someone who is thinking about taking their life that they are being ridiculous or “selfish”. These words are so damaging and will do nothing but push that person away from you.

I’m so sorry to all of the friends and families who have lost someone to suicide. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that this is your fault. I know how hard this is, please draw people around you who can love and support you.

If you are someone who is considering suicide or fighting depression I want you to know that you are loved and valuable and there are people in your life who will listen. Maybe that person is your mom, your friend, a coworker, or you can send me a message. I’m really sorry that there is something so hard in your life that this seems like the answer. Your feelings are valid and important and you are not crazy.

Here is a poem that I wrote to someone who is close to me:

please
know that
you’re loved

when you are
too sad to speak
and too afraid to
ask for help
know that there is
someone missing you

there are no
useless people
and no
meaningless lives
and you are no
exception

you are the sunrise
and you get brighter
with each passing
moment
but know
that you have
more warmth
to give before you
burn out

The National Suicide Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255
Chat with someone: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Love you,

Abby

Feeling sad is OK.

Hello there friends, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m not going to lie, I haven’t missed this all that much. I think I’ve found some better outlets for my feelings and that’s what I want to write about today: feelings.

This Sunday I was having a talk with my parents about all of the things I’ve been worried, upset, frustrated, excited, and scared about and my dad just looked at me and said:

You know it’s OK to just be sad sometimes, right?

To which I just responded “yea, I suppose so.” I guess this wasn’t a good enough answer for my dad so he took me to go see Inside Out (which, if you have not seen I would highly recommend doing so,) because he said it will help me talk about my feelings. I’ll admit it, he was right.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone but essentially the main theme was that, in order to be a healthy and functional human being, you need to allow yourself to feel Sadness. Things can’t always be happy and perfect and sometimes you need to just be sad. In theory, this is a concept I understand very well and am very familiar with. Sometimes I get sad because of fluorescent lights! I know about sad. But I think what my dad wanted me to recognize was that I’m not very good at being openly sad.

My first reaction to feeling sad is to get angry about it. I’m angry that I’m crying, I’m angry that I’m upset about something that probably isn’t that important, I’m angry that I can’t keep it together. And this is just multiplied if I’m sad around someone else. If I’ve ever cried in front of you it means that either I really trust you, I’m really upset, or we’re watching an Anne Hathaway movie together. To me, crying has always felt like a sign of weakness. It’s something I do frequently enough that I feel comfortable joking about it (here,) but I’m always mildly frustrated with myself when I cry in public (which I do frequently as well.) Joking about it is really the only way I know to make myself feel less stupid about it. I’ve also always been the “fun” friend, so being openly sad feels like I’m failing this role that I have.

I’ve been trying to find ways to deal with my sadness on my own: writing poetry, writing in my journal, playing the same sad song over and over until I pass out, etc. And some of those things have been really beneficial for me, but there is value to sharing openly with real people. It’s hard, I’m currently way too many miles away from the people who I am most likely to share my sadness with and I don’t always want to share with the people right around me. But I’ve been getting a lot out of talking with my mom and dad about my feelings; the good ones, the bad ones, and all the stupid ones in between. And I’m starting to understand that even though I’m trying to look like I’ve got it all together, the more I cover up my sadness the more I hurt myself.

NOTE: all of this makes it sound like I’m perpetually sad, don’t worry, I’m not. My life is good and full of wonderful things and I am really happy a lot of the time. I’m just really poor at dealing with sadness in the times when it does come.

So what was the point of writing all of this?
1. This is my encouragement to you to share your sadness with people in your life instead of just feeling things silently and alone.
2. I’ve been thinking about this for four days straight and needed to put all of my thoughts in some sort of order.
3. I want to know how you deal with your sadness.

I make no promises to write consistently, but I’ve had a bunch of time to think this summer and I think there are some things I would like to share with you.

Love you!

Abby

Update. 32 to go…

The past month and a half has been absolutely mad. I’ve been incredibly busy with school work, friends, and work. I’ve also been working through some issues in my life and between all of this I haven’t had the time or desire to write. I’ve also been trying to process through things on my own before I share them with the whole world. I guess this is what growing up is about. So here’s a little update on my life since early November.

I took my finals and finished the semester with a bang. It was a lot of work but I’m really proud of how I ended the semester and of the grades I got.

I went home for the first time all semester for Thanksgiving and had the most amazing time with my family and my friends. I have never been more thankful to be home in the warm arms of the people I love the most.

1799148_10153372325609972_2794151191504010471_oMe and my three best friends: my siblings.

My wonderful boyfriend came and stayed with me for a week before finals. We had an amazing time just being together, exploring, and going to Niagara Falls.

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Us in front of the American side of Niagara Falls. We went over to the Canadian side, but it was so dark out that it was hard to get a good picture on that side.

I’m now home for winter break and have been having a marvelous time relaxing and spending time with my family and friends. We had a really beautiful and low key Christmas. I’ve been working and playing the piano and sleeping.

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My family has been taking Christmas selfies every year since my parents got married 23 years ago.

All of these things have been really great, but the biggest thing I’ve done in the last two months is a little less exciting. For many years I’ve dealt with depression in various different ways but this October I took a big step in the right direction. I went to the doctor to talk about this depression and see what I could do. The doctor told me that I have chronic depression and have been dealing with some PTSD after an incident that occurred last year. After talking about my options I decided that I wanted to try antidepressants. I was really hesitant in this choice because it felt like I was admitting that there was something wrong with me but the doctor told me something that really stuck with me.

This is an issue of brain chemistry. This isn’t your fault. You don’t refuse cancer treatments because you don’t want to admit that your cells are doing a bad job and it is no different with your brain.

I had never thought of it like that and I am so glad he said that to me. Let me tell you, I feel like a whole new person. I have had one day of unexplainable sadness in the past two months as opposed to three to five days per week. I have been so productive and motivated. I’ve done my homework, I’ve cleaned our whole house, I’ve cleared off my desk, I’ve slept. I can’t say how amazing it has been. I feel more alive than I have in years.

I haven’t really been able to write about this recently because it is so personal and because it has been such a process. I’ve found it really helpful to write poetry and I’ve been writing somewhat consistent updates here. As I continue to deal with this and continue to grow I think it will be easier to write more often and I hope to post here more consistently in the coming months.

Thank you for all of your support and all of the love you’ve all shown me, it means so much to me. I hope you’re having an amazing holiday season and that your new year is full of love.

Love you guys!!

Abby

More than a feeling. 33 to go…

I’ve been really homesick recently so I’ve been spending some time reminiscing. Some of my favorite memories of high school are of me and my parents laughing in the kitchen and singing along to the oldies jams that would come on my “Newsies” Pandora station. Journey, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield and more. One song in particular stands out to me, my mom always loved the song “More Than A Feeling” by Boston. I just remember her dancing around and singing loudly and it always makes me smile.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings this week. I’ve been realizing that feelings, like most things, pass. I had a really hard week, and today I feel great. It’s odd how much things change in such short periods of time. And for people like me it’s really hard not to just ride on the highs and lows that come with each day. You see, I feel things. Hard. I don’t half heartedly feel things, I feel everything with every part of me. When I’m in love, the whole world is the most beautiful place. When I’m depressed, the sun is never coming back. I understand that this isn’t the healthiest way to live and that a lot of life is lived in the in-betweens, this is just how it is for me.

But this dopamine high I’m riding on at the moment will fade. It will be overshadowed by the darkness of winter and the stress of finals. And as we get further into November I find that I’m clinging to the bits of sunshine and the happy moments I can find in between the rainy days. I hate being at the mercy of my emotions. Feeling like I physically cannot get out of bed because there’s no happiness left to keep going on. Crying alone late into the nights and not being able to explain why I’m so damn tired. I know that all of these feelings pass in their time, but until they do I am manipulated by their every whim.

I find myself looking for something that will not pass, and I’ve begun to find it in little things. The love of the people closest to me, the way green tea makes me feel, my love of butt-jokes, or the warmth of sweaters. I’m also starting to understand that there are some things that do not pass. Hope, Joy, Peace. These promise not to fade as time goes on, they’re less a feeling and more of a mindset.

I’m starting to see a change in my life. I can see things differently. I’d like to write a little bit more about this later, but I’m feeling a change even in my brain chemistry. So I’m trying to get in the mindset of Joy and Peace. I don’t really know how to do that, but I think it comes with just looking at the world with a more positive outlook. So we’ll see.

Love you!

Abby

A hard day. 34 to go…

Today was the hardest day I’ve had in a long time. I don’t have days like this very often, but sometimes I am held down by the weight of my depression and I physically cannot make myself get out of bed. I haven’t questioned my desire to continue to exist on this earth in a long time, but today I couldn’t convince myself that living was really worth it. I stayed in bed until mid afternoon. I sat in the shower and cried because I could feel the physical ache of my sadness in my stomach. I couldn’t make myself eat anything or drink anything. It’s so hard to explain to someone who has never felt this way but it’s as though I was fighting with myself to keep breathing.

I fight it every day. The hopelessness, the loneliness. I have to shake it off every day, but some days it just gets the better of me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the worst part of feeling like this is that nothing set me off. Sure, life is stressful and things are hard right now, but that wasn’t the problem. So on top of feeling like death I’m frustrated with myself for feeling the way I do. I feel like my heart is breaking and my bones are hollow and I don’t know why. I know that I’m deeply loved, I know that my life has meaning, I know that the sun still shines.

This inability to explain my feeling often leads to me isolating myself. I have a deep fear of being too needy in my closest relationships and driving people away from me. I also live in a sort of constant fear of people seeing what a mess I am and deciding that I’m too much to handle. So I don’t talk about it. I just try to manage it myself and end up feeling even further away from the people I love. I’ve been really struggling to remember the words Meesh said to me this summer:

this is not your fault, this is not some weakness that you have, this is just a hard thing in life that you are going through

I’ve been trying to remind myself of this, and I know it’s true, but it’s so hard to believe some days. I can’t help but look at the people around me and wonder why I can’t be happy and functional like them. I can’t help but wish that I was different. It feels like a weakness. It feels like just one more way that my body is failing me, and this time it’s my mind. It’s just one more thing to scare people off. It’s just one more reason that I’m undesirable. It’s just one more way I’m not good enough.

I did get out of bed today. It took everything in me, but I did it. I got up, I showered, I ate something, I washed some dishes, I talked to my roommates, I wrote this. I was able to find the will to keep going. Yea, it was a hard day, but I did it. And I’m slowly learning how to hate myself less and how to find the motivation within myself to go on. It was a hard day, and I’m tempted to say that it was a bad day, but I know it’s days like today that are making me better. I’m learning from days like this and I’m growing from them. They’re teaching me to see hope. They’re reminding me that I’m still loved and still alive. So I’ll ask you to stick with me through the hard days. Stick with me when I don’t know if I’m going to make it to tomorrow. Because you’re helping me get through these days. You’re reminding me that there is hope. You’re reminding me that you still love me and I’m still alive.

Maybe it was a hard day, but it wasn’t a bad day. I’m getting better.

Love you!

Abby

Pat The Bunny. 37 to go…

I’ve really struggled with depression for several years and one of the main ways I have chosen to self-medicate is through music. I’ve spent a lot of time pumping happy, lovey-dovey music into my head to avoid the darkness that creeps around the corners of my mind and preys on me when I’m weakest. My friends at school would make fun of my taste in “white-bread” music that all sounds the same, and I didn’t have it in me to tell them that it was the only thing I had to help me hide from my demons.

Well things have changed. I’ve changed. I’ve started to deal with my depression openly and honestly, and I think it’s come with being physically healthier, being more honest with the people close to me, and acknowledging that there is a problem. I’ll write a little bit more about this in detail later this month, but I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t have to numb my mind with sappy music.

Living with Grace and Mike means that I have listened to a lot of new and interesting things. From K-Pop, to Wu Tang Clan there is almost always music playing in our house. Recently, we’ve been listening to a lot of Pat The Bunny and it’s kind of been changing my life. I’ll warn you straight up, his music is not super family friendly. It’s abrasive and angry and honest. It’s also full of hope. You should definitely take a listen to it though, it’s sort of been changing my life.

A couple of weeks ago I drove with my dear friends Grace, Evan, and Brandon to see Pat The Bunny at a tiny stone church in Vermont.

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The show was absolutely amazing. I cried. A lot. I got to shake Pat’s hand and in that moment I couldn’t put the words together to tell him about how his music was changing my life. There was a moment when everyone in the room starts singing along to “We Are All Compost in Training” and everyone screams along THE WORLD NEEDS MORE SPINACH, NOT MORE MOTHERF****** LIKE ME and I just sort of lost it. How true is it? The world doesn’t need more people like me, the world needs more spinach.

A lot of his lines are funny, and Grace and I sing them loudly while driving.

Seat belts are for people with time to die, hell, I don’t even have time to sleep.

And then some are so incredibly relatable.

Nothing’s free but time when you’re so damn poor.

And there are some that make me cry every single time.

Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist so keep on loving, keep on fighting, and hold on for your life.

These are words I’ve been listening to over and over again, reminding me that there is hope and that choosing to numb my mind in any way is not the way to deal with the pain I may feel. It’s been serving as a reminder that I’m going to make it out in the end. It’s been showing me the importance of being socially informed and speaking up. It’s given me something to laugh at and sing along to and a way to say a lot of the things I’ve been feeling.

So maybe this isn’t your style and maybe you don’t connect with Pat’s music at all, but it’s a 35 minute album that’s worth listening to in depth at least once.

Love you!

Abby

Making room. 44 to go…

Have you ever read something at 1:42 am that changes your life?

“This year taught me that my loneliness has more to do with myself than anyone else. The loneliest I will ever be is when I don’t have the strength to love myself.”
-Marianna Paige

I’m sitting here crying over a boy because I’m frustrated and confused and hurt and oh so unsure when I scroll past this on my Tumblr feed. It might as well have been a giant finger pointing at me, a giant neon sign screaming at me:

YOU HAVE NOT HAD THE STRENGTH TO LOVE YOURSELF AND THIS ISN’T YOUR FAULT

I’ve been really low, like, really low. I’ve been depressed, unmotivated, and confused. Honestly, I’ve let feeling like this convince me that there was something wrong with me. That I have some incurable illness, or that I’m some freak, or that I’m just weak and therefore less than others. But I’m starting to get it. I haven’t had the strength to love myself. Honestly, I’ve had the strength to do very little for a long time. I’ve been trying to find things to fill this deep lonely hole in my chest: my friends, this boy, a banjo, work, my siblings, Game of Thrones, late nights, my parents and so many other things. I haven’t given myself space to love myself.

I can’t keep living like this. I feel like I’m dying. I need to breathe again.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop listening to happy music and start listening to good music. I’m going to read a book. I’m going to sleep. I’m going to get out of bed before noon. I’m going to cook. I’m going to pray. I’m going to go to church and listen. I’m not going to wear makeup. I’m going to go to the beach and listen to the waves. I’m going to cry if I need to. I’m going to laugh. I’m going to talk to my mom. I’m going to go to the doctor. I’m going to play my banjo. I’m going to clean my room. I’m going to journal a lot.

This song is healing me right now. “Life is not the mountaintops, it’s the walking in between.”

I took a couple of days off of work this week to go on a mini vacation and sort my life out. I’m going to be selfish this week. Maybe I won’t love myself this week, but I’ll make room to try.

How do you get your strength back? You rest and then you take it one step at a time.

Love you!

Abby